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Friday, January 4, 2019

Time To Review Your Car Insurance Policy Or You'll Be Sorry!

One of the most ignored expenses is car insurance.  I mean, who wants to bother looking over the renewal packet you get in the mail every 6 months or so?  They're long, boring, and state the same thing (in terms of your coverage) they did the last time you got one in the mail.  Up until a few days ago, I simply looked for the latest insurance card for my vehicle, pulled it out from the perforated portion of the sheet, and dropped it inside my car's glove compartment.  Done!  On to driving another year and paying my premium on automatic deduction from my checking account.

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Last November, my wife, Jessica, was rear-ended.  She texted me to tell me she was okay, but the rear bumper on her Lexus was warped and scratched up.  Well, turns out she got some whiplash, and has had to go to the chiropractor for her neck and upper back.  She was not at fault so we assumed things would go smoothly come time to get the Lexus fixed.  The person who was at fault for the accident had really bad insurance.  Anchor General...look at their reviews.  You better hope no one driving with this insurance ever wrecks your car!  But I digress.

We got tired of dealing with the claim directly with A.G. (we were being cheap and didn't want to pay the deductible of $500 with our insurer) so we let Allstate take over.  Our Lexus is in the shop and should be repaired by next week.  When will we get our deductible refunded?  Who knows?  These things drag on, especially when dealing with not so reputable car insurance companies.  My wife is also seeing a lawyer about her chiropractic expenses.

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Now, you'd think that an accident, whether or not you were at fault, would be a good time to review your car insurance policy.  Mainly to see if you are under-insured.  But oh no...not for me.  I'm a dunce!  I went about my business as usual.  This week, my little sister visited from San Diego.  She lives with her boyfriend and is a recent graduate of SDSU.  She's a waitress, and has been trying for over a year to get admitted to a Physical Therapy program.  While visiting, she shared that she'd been admitted to a PT program in Oakland, CA.  It's pricey.  She already owes like $30K for her bachelor's degree.

It's her dream to become a PT so I made sure to counsel her on how to approach paying (and going into more debt) for her future studies.  But then she divulged that she was being sued!  I'm like...whaaaaat?!  She explained that over 8 months ago, she made a left turn into an empty parking spot and hit a car that was oncoming.  The driver, according to her, was not hurt, and was seemingly in good spirits after the accident.  No harm, no foul, right?  Wrong!

Recently, she received a summons to appear in court in April of this year.  Her insurer, Allstate, has informed her that the other side is asking for $50K in medical damages.  One huge problem...my little sister is only insured for $25K; this is the minimum a driver must have for liability coverage in CA.  Allstate has offered her legal help, because they're a great insurer.  I told her that chances are the case will be settled out of court.  But my little sister is obviously struggling with this.  She feels like her dream of going to a PT program is in jeopardy.  And she doesn't have any money.  Like most Millennials, she's got school debt she hasn't even started paying back yet!  I felt really bad for her.

This is when I got to thinking.  Holy shish...what's my coverage?  Unlike my little sister, I have assets to lose should I cause a serious accident.  I called my Allstate agent in Carlsbad, CA, and sure enough, I too only had $25K coverage (one person bodily injury)!  Folks, you get charged more than this for a simple test done at an emergency room.  $25K is nothing these days.  Imagine if you cause damage to more than one vehicle, or heaven forbid, you should seriously injure someone?  You're SOOOOO S.O.L!

I got on it quick.  I asked my agent to up my coverage to $100K per person bodily injury.  My deductible didn't change.  My premium went up by a mere $84 a term of six months.  I don't know what I was thinking driving around with the minimum liability coverage and I dare say I dodged a big one.  Now I ask...what kind of car insurance coverage are you driving around with?  If you're young, don't put your future at risk.  Everyone else, don't put your assets or income at risk.  Insure yourself as high as you can afford.  Peace of mind is priceless!   


Thursday, December 27, 2018

Instead of Paying for Your Child's College, Get Them This!

Many financially savvy parents know that by paying for their child's college education they will be giving their offspring a huge leg up on their future.  Without crippling college debt, their kid(s) will be able to possibly afford a home, get married, and start a family.  The incentive to bust your butt to save for your child's college expenses is there, and the only thing keeping most people from doing more of it is the need to also save for retirement.

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But let's put the retirement problem aside.  Let's pretend you don't have this problem and can indeed save for your child's college expenses without sacrificing retirement savings.  I'm here to tell you that even though you may be doing a noble, caring, parenting act, it's now a wrong financial move.  Saving for your child's college education is a losing endeavor.  Here are three reasons why:

1) A moving target.  College expenses go up every year.  You'll never save enough.  You better be wealthy!  

2)  Your child will want to go to grad school.  Many students need advanced degrees (Masters or Ph.D's) to compete in their field with the thousands of other kids out there trying to do the same thing.  This means that your child will need more of your money, OR they will use student loans to pay for their grad school education, getting in debt anyways.

3)  Your child will major in something that isn't easily employable.  Sure, they won't have any college debt, but they'll have a low-paying job, nothing to do with their major/degree.

The Traditional Path Leads to Financial Struggle

When your child leaves college, in debt or not, they'll start buying liabilities.  The first liability they'll own is their car.  But they won't stop there.  They'll get a pet, dog or cat.  Then they'll want to buy a house with their partner.  Their starter home will become their biggest liability, draining them of cash every month.  Yes, your home is not an asset!  In effect, your kid will end up in the rat race...all because they don't own any assets...like most Americans.

What should they do?

They should start out at a Junior college.  Have a part-time job while attending and live at home.  They should take public transportation if you can't pay for their car insurance, gas, and maintenance.  After they get their A.A. degree or skills certificate, they should take a year off from school...but not to slack off!!

Instead they need to double time their work load.  Two part-time jobs or one full-time job if they got a skill.  Live with parents.  Save as much money as possible.  Then they can go back and finish their degree.  They may have to take out some college loans but it won't be as bad since they completed two years at a community college and they saved a bunch of money during that year off to pay for their university expenses, i.e., to complete their degree.

What should you do?

Use the money you saved for your child's college education to buy your child their very first asset!  Buy them an out-of-state (or in state if you live in an affordable area) rental property and put it in their name.  Make sure it is set-up so your son/daughter understands their role in making it provide positive cashflow in their real estate bank account every month.  Your child can claim the property as an investment, rental, on their tax return and after a couple of years, have a track record as an investor for future banking purposes!  

Imagine your child having income coming in from their salary job, AND from a rental property each month.  That's a great start to a life of accumulating wealth.

If all of this doesn't make any sense, watch the video below:




Friday, December 14, 2018

11 Financial Mistakes Teenagers Make

Helping teens is my thing.  And man do teens need help these days.  There are just so many more ways teens can stray, and shoot their future in the foot.  Take the case of this year's Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray.  Within hours of receiving the most coveted award in all of college football, people were blasting him on Twitter for having homophobic tweets in his history.  Tweets he made when he was a teenager!  That's the world we live in...a place where haters are going to find a way to dim or completely turn off your spotlight.  But I digress...

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Anyway, like I said above, teens these days need lots of help, and not just with their character and morals.  But also very much so with their financial habits.  While I do my best to make money matters interesting to this breed of teen at my YouTube channel, sadly, most of them would rather watch their favorite Vlogger do something crazy or idiotic.  So although I realize that many of you are adults, some of you may have greater influence with a teen than I do as a teacher.

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Using compiled responses from some of my students, I've created a list of the ways teens misuse money.  These are, for many, bad habits that they need to break now if they're to avoid being a statistic, namely, just another member of the Have-nots.  Here they are in no particular order:

1)  Having a baby.  This is like a financial deathblow in the teenage years, especially if the teens involved belong to low-income families.

2)  Losing high school textbooks.  This will result in fines students have to pay before they're given their high school diploma.

3)  Buying and consuming illegal drugs regularly.  Wrong on so many levels...

4)  Buying an expensive and relatively new car.  This is a dream for many high school students, but because parents defray the costs of car ownership in many cases (paying for insurance, e.g.) teens don't fully grasp how expensive it truly is (loan, depreciation, etc.) to buy a new car.

5)  Upgrading a car.  Teens, especially the boys, love state of the art sound systems, carbon rims, racing mufflers, and so on.  Useless additions that only take money away from savings.

6)  Buying vapes or cigarettes.  Teens get hooked on these and getting them to stop is dang near impossible.  This becomes an expense many of them carry over into their 20s.

7)  Spending on online gaming.  In addition to the game consoles, individual games, and accessories teens want their parents to buy for them, now teens are asking mom and dad for credit cards to pay for gaming coins, and in-game purchases.

8)  Trying to impress a date with an expensive gift or outing.  The same can be said of teens in serious relationships.

9)  The senior prom becomes an event that seriously places families in a financial crisis.  Teens are spending way too much on a formality that is forgotten over time.  I barely remember my senior prom!

10)  Spending on fast food meals daily.  Some high schoolers are allowed to leave campus for lunch.  Others go straight to the nearest fast food joint right after school.  All the same.  The result is more unnecessary spending.

11) . Clothing, shoes, and other attire.  Teens are working after-school part-time and spending their money on clothing they don't need.  Why?  To look good at school, of course.


Well, I'm sure teens are finding even more creative ways to spend their money, and we as older people haven't yet caught on to their trends.  Main point is to help teens understand that their spending habits carry over to their adult years and effectively lead them into the Rat Race, or worse, homelessness.  Thanks for reading!

If your teen doesn't like reading, send them my way:
Video: 11 Financial Mistakers Teens Make!

    

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Why I Left A T & T After 7 Years

My cell phone carrier experience goes back to the very first cell phones.  I'm that old.  The year was 2001.  I'd just graduated from the UCSB Graduate School of Education and decided to start my career as a teacher in the heart of East Side San Jose.  I got me a wireless Motorola or something and thought they were so cool.  When the smart phones came along I was not quick to change.  I kept my traditional text and call phone until the Blackberry went out of style.

I purchased my first smart phone, an iPhone 4, in 2011 I think, going with AT & T as my carrier.  After sometime, I even decided to "bundle" my Internet and cable with them.  I thought highly of their service, except their fees always irked me.  The Internet was slow, and to level up cost a lot of money.  I remained loyal for as long as possible, but like most people, I cut the cord.  That was my first severance experience with A T & T.  Sling TV was so much more affordable and it had all the channels I needed.

The Internet was next.  At 18 mbps, my Internet was too slow to stream HD content.  I hated how my shows, like Game of Thrones on HBO, would freeze right in the middle of a good part.  I'd purchased a streaming android box, and my brother-in-law loaded it with Kodi and other apps.  So I had managed to layer my Sling TV online content with streaming on the "Kodi Box," as I called it.

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About two months ago, my wife, Jessica, took on the Internet situation.  After talking with A T and T, she decided we could do better.  She signed us up for Cox Internet 100 mbps.  Man is it fast!  The cost, after the activation fee of $75, was only $70 per month!  That was only a bit more than I was paying for the A T & T 18 mbps program.  The full power of my iPhone 6 was essentially released.  With faster Internet, I could now stream sports and shows live on my phone without hiccups.  My data plan with A T & T was 500 MB.  I always used less than this, mostly because I wasn't streaming sports AND I always used free WiFi.

Then something strange happened.  I was at McDonald's using their free WiFi.  When I left I noticed I had two text messages from A T & T Alerts.  One stated I had consumed 75% of my data and would be charged $20 automatically if I went over.  The second text, only a minute later, stated I had consumed 100% of my data and I would be charged $20 for another 500 MB.  First, I didn't like the fact that A T & T charged this fee assuming I'd want another 500 MB.  In all honesty, I'd prefer to go without data until the month renewed my plan's allocation.  Second, because they came so fast, I didn't have time to adjust my usage, meaning get off the Internet.

I thought for sure I'd simply used too much data for the month.  My bad, right?  The next day, I was at home, streaming an NBA game.  I was using my own home's WiFi so I figured I was safe from overusing my data.  I was wrong.  It happened again!  Somehow I'd managed to use 500 MB of data in one day!  What the heck, I thought.  I didn't like being charged another $20.  So I called A T & T and asked why this had happened.  That is when I learned a valuable lesson.

DID YOU KNOW?...

You are using carrier data anytime your phone has its "Cellular Data" button turned on.  On the iPhone, you have to go to Settings, Cellular, and Cellular Data, to manually turn it off.  Even while using someone else's WiFi!  All this time, I assumed...again because I'd hardly ever gone over, that anytime I connected to free WiFi, I wasn't using my own data.  Boy was I wrong.  Had I not called A T & T and got the full scoop, I'd never have known that you have to manually turn off "cellular data" every time you went online and were in a free (or your own) WiFi venue.  I talked with a friend who works an Internet business and is an iPhone 10 user, and he too wan't aware of this.  He said, "I thought that (WiFi taking the place of carrier data) was the default."


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I went back to old A T & T emails, those telling me of an overage fee, and noticed a link at the bottom.  The link when clicked, takes you to a page that, if you read it all, lets you know that cellular data is always being used unless you turn it off.  I imagine many people out there, maybe including you, friend, aren't aware of this.

There was no leeway when talking with the A T & T service rep.  She didn't have any sympathy for me, and frankly didn't care that I was technologically ignorant.  I was out.  See ya, A T & T!  I hate businesses that nickel and dime you.

I'm now with T-Mobile.  I only had 4 months left to pay for my iPhone 6 and T-Mobile has a deal right now where they'll pay your old phone for you (up to like $600) if you switch.  They also give you free Netflix!  I ordered the iPhone 8 over the phone with a very helpful service rep, and got under my wife's T-Mobile unlimited data plan.  The phone arrived in two days, and I was able to keep my phone number too.  We will be paying $180 total (this includes financing on the new iPhone 8).  I'm happy because I get to stream all my games worry free.  The numbers also made sense.  We were paying very close to this amount combined when I was with A T & T and Jessica with T-mobile.

Main Point:

If you are paying with a set amount of data with A T & T, turn off the "Cellular Data" function on your phone everywhere you have free WiFi!  Why use your own data?

Thanks for reading.  Until next time.

        

Sunday, September 23, 2018

5 Fall Equinox Savings Strategies

If you're not keeping note of planet Earth's revolution around the sun, then you wouldn't have noticed that yesterday, September 22nd, was the Autumnal (Fall) Equinox in the northern hemisphere.  Of course, if you remember your Earth science, then you'd also connect this to the opposite season beginning in the souther hemisphere, namely, spring.  Wherever you are, we had 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night yesterday.

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Starting today, we in the north will begin to experience fewer hours of daylight, meaning, sunset and darkness creeping up even sooner.  Therefore, it's time we stop spending money like we're still in summer!  Below I've compiled some ideas that may save you a few bucks here and there, relating all of it to the start of the Fall season.

1.  Adjust your sprinkler timer.  Since they'll be progressively fewer minutes of daylight, your lawn and plants won't need as much water.  Take off a minute of watering this month, and another minute in October.

2.  Watch your car's tire pressure.  It's not as hot so your tire pressure while driving is going to be lower.  Lower tire pressure due to temperatures cooling results in your car using more gas as you drive around.  So make necessary adjustments in the coming months.

3.  NFL football is baaack!  DO NOT PAY to watch your team or all the games.  I know that some of you (men) like to buy the NFL Sunday Ticket and catch any game you want on Sunday.  But...did you know that you can livestream any game you want on Reddit?

4.  Put money aside for Black Friday starting today.  November 23rd is the day you can finally upgrade your phone, computer, tablet, or even television.  The savings will be there if you're a smart shopper, so put a little extra away starting at the end of this month.

5.  Buy your winter wear now in the Fall while prices are still marked for summer.  If you need a new jacket or sweater, go buy them now!

Alright, that's all I got.  If you have any Fall savings strategies or ideas, please comment below.  Thanks for reading!   

Friday, August 24, 2018

Tips for Buying Your First Home Even with High Student Debt

What's up everyone!  So I keep finding articles online about college students finding it nearly impossible to buy their first home.  Many of them desperately want to do so for obvious reasons: Getting a piece of the American dream, building wealth, stop paying high rents, and so on.  This particular article pinpoints the main challenges young people with massive college debt are facing, namely,


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1.  A poor Debt-to-Income ratio.  Why this matters: How much you owe (loans and other credit card debts, etc.) compared to how much you make (your verifiable annual income) is utilized by lenders to approve applicants for mortgage financing.  

2.  Credit Score.  Why this matters: Well...your credit is a reflection of your ability to pay back small loans and handle OPM (other people's money) responsibly.  Your credit score is also used to get you prime (as opposed to subprime) loans and rates.

3.  Down Payment.  If you have loads of student debt, then you most likely have a high monthly school loan debt payment.  This hinders your ability to save money for a downpayment.  You're practically expected by all lenders these days to have at least a 20% downpayment.

Here is what I would do to overcome these challenges.


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Tip 1: Focus on increasing your income.

If your student debt is massive, you're not going to bring it down enough in 3 years (I'll explain why 3 years is a significant timeframe) to make a substantial impact on your crappy debt-to-income ratio.  Of course you can help yourself by paying down other, more manageable debts like your car and credit cards.  But the goal here is to attack this challenge from the other end.

When you complete a home loan application, you'll have to declare your income.  This will be your first hurdle.  If it's high enough for the amount of financing you need, you'll be asked to produce evidence.  The evidence comes in the form of 3 years of W2's and Tax returns.  It's a complete pain in the behind, having to PDF or scan your "income" documents.  Hopefully your tax person sent these documents in some sort of e-file.

If you happen to have a job paying the median U.S. income, around $59K, and you want to buy an "average" home in the U.S. (around $200K) you better have very little debt.  If you're reading this because you're saddled with student debt, then your only option is to work a second, part-time job that pays you by the book, i.e., no cash!  Your part-time employer must provide you with a W2 at the end of each year.  (You could also get a higher paying full-time job via the promotion route, or quit and climb the corporate ladder elsewhere).

Yes, it sucks to have to work a part-time along with your full-time.  It's a sacrifice you'll have to make as a highly indebted person, at least for three years.  Lenders look for a track record on your income, so don't go quitting and job hopping with that part-time gig.  Stay with the same employers for three straight years!  Once you qualify, sign the contract, are given the keys, and get your first home, you can re-evaluate whether or not you need to continue working the part-time job.


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Tip 2: Fix your credit!

Use your credit cards wisely.  Pay off your debts.  Don't go over your limits.  And on and on.  You can Google how to increase your credit score and have a bunch of free articles at your disposal instantly.  Have fun reading!

Tip 3: Down Payment, Save Like Your Kid Needs A Surgery And You Don't Have Insurance

If you focus more on making more income, paying the minimum on your student debt (provided you pay into both principal and interest), and being seriously frugal, you'll be able to save substantially more than ever before.  The down payment is the easiest challenge to solve out of the three.  Stop eating out and buying pricey coffee, shop at Thrift stores for clothes, at Dollar Stores for food, kitchen, and bathroom items, track all expenses, and so on.  Watch the movie John Q, starring Denzel Washington, for inspiration. 

The solution to your debt problems isn't paying down debts at a normal clip.  This will take you years and prevent you from buying your first home.  Clearly, it's a matter of being creative and taking assertive action to MAKE MORE MONEY!  Stop whining about how bad you have it.  Stop living in the past, wishing you'd never gone to college and spent all that borrowed money irresponsibly.  Move your ass!

On a lighter note...thanks for being here!  Until next time.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Is Ensenada, Baja CA, Mexico A Suitable Retirement Destination For You?

Welcome!  Today's post is about retirement living in Ensenada, Mexico.  I recently returned from a 3 day family vacation in Ensenada.  Earlier this summer, my wife and I had entertained the idea of going to Rosarito, Mexico for a short vacation with our kids.  We applied for Passport Cards (ID's that serve like passports when crossing the Mexican and Canadian border by vehicle) and even booked a place using Airbnb.com.  But we canceled the booking in the end and instead used the money to place our kids in a Girls and Boys Club weeklong camp.  It gave us a much needed respite from parenting duties from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. for five days!


View from the top of the cliff: Rancho Packard

Out of the blue I commented on a friend's post on Facebook, namely, that when I visit Ensenada I'd let him know so we could hook up.  He's a retired Chicano living there with his Mexican wife and kids.  Much to my surprise, my friend offered to let my family use his cliffside house (he rents another house in a neighborhood called, Coronel Estaban Cantu) overlooking the Pacific free of charge!  So with my wife's encouragement, I contacted him and asked if his cliffside house was available July 23rd to July 26.  It was and we had a week to plan our Mexico adventure.  It was an opportunity we couldn't pass up!  Now onto some financial details.


View from the master bedroom

Total Vacation Cost:  $274

I left Oceanside, CA this past Monday with $280 in my wallet and a full tank of gas.  I spent an initial $54 to insure (full coverage, including vehicle theft) our Lexus RX 350 using Bajabound.com for three days.  Ensenada is about 68 miles from the border, and my friend's house is in South Ensenada so we were over the 70 mile coverage provided by Allstate.  Getting Mexican insurance in addition to your own American policy to cover liability is not a bad idea even closer to the border.  It's cheap and provides peace of mind.  Bajabound.com is a great site and very easy to get in and out with exactly what you need.


Beautiful Baja Cove Beach

In San Ysidro, CA, prior to crossing the border, I swapped $180 into Mexican pesos.  The exchange rate I got was 18.55 pesos for $1.  I recommend you always have Mexican currency on hand.  Why?  While most places near the border and indeed, even in the whole of Mexico, take the dollar, vendors and businesses will give you a sub-market exchange rate inland.  It's an easy ride to the coast once you cross the border.  You literally run parallel to the border wall until you reach the Tijuana, MX playas (beaches).  Take the scenic road.  It's a toll road, but you'll save a ton of time.  Currently, the toll fare is $2 or 35 pesos.  So you'll save about 11 cents each time if you use Mexican currency.  There are three toll booths you'll need to stop at before reaching Ensenada.


The courtyard patio at my friend's house

We used a little over a quarter of a tank of gas to get to Ensenada.  Our driving time from Oceanside to Ensenada was two hours.  But...getting to my friend's cliff house in Rancho Packard, a small enclave about 1 mile from the famous tourist destination, La Bufadora, took another hour.  We had to drive through central Ensenada and make our way south on Avenida Reforma until turning onto highway 23, running up the peninsula.


Selfie at Junior's Burgers

Though traffic sucked, with multiple lights stopping our progress here and there, it did give us a chance to get a great look at the shops, restaurants, and services Ensenada has to offer.  We saw American chains like Subway, McDonald's, Sam's Club, Costco, Walmart, 7-11, Starbucks, Applebee's, and the Home Depot, along with their Mexican counterparts like Calimax (supermarket), Oxxo (convenience store), and Elektra (like a Bestbuy).  Of course there were a multitude of privately owned Mexican eateries and shops.


The kids playing at Baja Cove Beach

Driving in Mexico is not that different than driving in the U.S.  The stop signs are the same except they say, "Alto."  The street light colors are also the same, but even better, when green is about to turn to yellow, it starts to flicker, warning you.  The main difference is merging.  In Mexico, many streets and strip mall parking zones are unpaved.  So you have to merge and get off with purpose onto and off the main road, and you don't always have the best traction.  Expect your car to be dirty, by the way.  A film of dust covered our car.


At the famous blowhole: La Bufadora!

Ensenada Living

Ensenada has everything an American needs and it usually is a whole lot cheaper.  We went grocery shopping at a Calimax a couple hours after we arrived.  We spent an equivalent of $58 in groceries.  The same goods would have probably cost over $80 in the U.S.  Get plenty of bottled water unless you want Moctezuma's revenge, a.k.a. chorro, a.k.a., the runs.  Remember that Mexicans (and ex-pats) have an immunity to the bacteria responsible for infection that causes a bout of diarrhea.  You don't!  So don't drink the water, freeze water into ice cubes, wet your toothbrush, etc.  Use bottled water to wash your vegetables.  Washing dishes is okay since you're most likely going to use an antibacterial dish detergent.  Showering and bathing is also okay so long as you don't drink the running water!  If you retire in Mexico, just be prepared to get this infection once.  You'll be fine afterward.


Getting tacos!

As I see it, there is no point to leaving the U.S. to live in Mexico if you won't have a front row, cliffside house overlooking the Pacific, or a beach house with sand in front of you.  Unless you are poor and have absolutely no way of retiring in the U.S., don't buy a home or a lot to build on that's far removed from water.  A ranch?  Too much work in it for me.  A cottage in the Sierra?  Nah!  You can rent or own a cabin here in the U.S.  It's all about the view.  My friend's house sits in prime real estate position with an incredible view.  To his right, you can see the strand of Ensenada known as La Jolla, and Baja Cove beach.  We spent a day at Baja Cove and I swear to you it was like spending a day at a North County San Diego beach.  Only inconvenience was there not being a public bathroom.


How does 6 tamales for $5 sound?

My friend pays $75 to rent the land under his house which he values at about $150-180K.  It's a 3 bedroom, two bath, with incredible style.  This arrangement works for him.  The landowner collects his $75 monthly, but he has no rights to the house.  If my friend wants to sell, he can, provided the buyer understands he leases the land.  Sort of like trailer home living where you pay rent on your space.  There are no property taxes!  His house has wi-fi, and Dish TV.  The Internet is okay.  I was able to get on all my social media and regular online sites.  I didn't ask him about his Internet speed though I'm sure Mexico's hasn't caught up yet to the U.S.


Jessica takes a closer look.  Directly in front of the house is this view!

Rancho Packard and Baja Cove Beach are two communities where many American ex-pats live or vacation in.  In fact, while at Rancho Packard, I spoke English with three different neighbors I met.  It's a gated community but the gate keeper sits in a shack and simply opens the door for entering and outgoing vehicles.  He doesn't even leave his shack!  He's tied a rope to the gate and pulls on it each time.  LOL!!  But you don't need security.  We left windows open every time we left and nothing was ever stolen.  You need clearance to get in, however.  You must name who your host is, and hopefully your host has informed the gatekeeper that you are coming.  Once your car is approved for entry, the gate opens and closes without further issues when leaving or coming in.

Rancho Packard street on my morning run

My friend said there are burglaries at Baja Cove Beach, where thieves break entry and steal electronics, jewelry, etc., but not the murdering type of criminal.  Neighbors get together and hire security to look after a group of homes.  If you can afford it, you can hire your own security!  It's really the same as in the U.S.  If you're paranoid, you can live in a more secure Baja community like Bajamar, about 15 minutes north of Ensenada.  This is a bubble to me.  Not real Mexico.


Inside look of my friend's house

We went out to dinner twice.  At La Poblana in a community called, Maneadora, we get some insanely delicious tacos.  It's outside eating, with flies flying around you and a noisy main road, but the tacos are the best in town.  We paid like $25 for 12 tacos and 3 drinks.  If you want a clean, American style restaurant, try Junior's Burgers in Ejido Cantu.  They got both Mexican and American food, and a bar.  The food was delicious and we only payed $28 for four full meals!  There were two tables occupied when we arrived, all older Americans.  The view of the estuary is amazing.  On our last night there, we drove to King Pizza in Maneadero and ordered a large.  It was less than $10 and it tasted great.  We also bought ice cream for desert at a nearby neveria.  We took a pint and half home for $8.


One of the bathrooms

Ensenada does have a hospital, and several clinics.  Plus there are many doctors who have a practice.  Of course there are pharmacies galore.  There are many gyms in Ensenada so that will help you stay in shape.  Driving there and back home will not be as fast perhaps as in the states, but hey...you'll make up for it with a super cheap membership.  How about the health benefits of drinking beer and wine?  Well, much to my surprise I found craft beer sold at the Calimax.  I stocked up for those three nights.  The wines there are also great.  Wine country, the Guadalupe Valley, is a short drive away.  Next time I go to Ensenada I'll have to visit several wineries.


Master bath

Unlike Rosarito, Ensenada is a true Mexican city.  Yes, there are many American stores there, but the feel is slow paced and the people are from all walks of life.  You will see third world living with patches of affluence.  Ensenada has multiple universities, and is also an agricultural center that has temporary workers that come in from other parts of Baja, and continental Mexico.  If you're going to visit, stay downtown for walking access to everything you need, or rent a beach house.  As far as retiring there is concerned, you wouldn't be the first American there and you won't be the last.  If I were to give it some scores, they'd be these: (1 = Bad, 10 = Great)


1) Convenience: 7
2) Affordability: 9
3) Safety: 7 (never felt unsafe...of course, I'm Mexican and speak Mexican Spanish...this helps a lot).  Don't look like a wealthy American and you should be fine.
4) Overall Score: 7.7

We enjoyed our Mexican vacation very much.  The only downside was crossing the border.  We spent 2.5 hours in the car waiting to get to the ICE agent at the booth.  There are any vendors at the border so save some pesos prior to leaving.  You can buy souvenirs, food, or even pay for a visit to the bathroom!  If you want to help the poor people there, donate your coins or small bills.

We will surely revisit Ensenada and our friend in the future.  If you take a cruise there, get off the boat and have a look around.  This city has lots of charm.  Until next time!